We primarily use gastroscopy in the investigation and monitoring of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS). First the horse is starved overnight to ensure the stomach is empty to allow a thorough examination. Then, under sedation at the clinic, a specialist 3.3 metre endoscope is passed via the horse’s nose into the stomach and the number, distribution and severity of ulcers is assessed. A video record is made which can be reviewed later with the client.
EGUS is a widespread problem, being found in a broad range of breeds and uses of horse and pony, and studies have shown that around 50 % of sports and leisure horses in the UK may be affected. Symptoms associated with the pain of EGUS can be vague and non-specific. In adult horses signs can include poor/ reduced performance, recurrent colic, ill-thrift or poor hair coat, adverse change in behaviour, pain on tightening the girth, decreased appetite and diarrhea.
Treatment includes a gastric ulcer medication that reduces acid levels in the stomach, alongside management and dietary advice. A repeat gastroscope, usually after 4 weeks, allows us to check how healing has progressed. Management changes need to be maintained to minimize the risk of recurrence.
As well as being used in EGUS, in certain weight loss cases gastroscopy is used to obtain biopsies from the start of the small intestine to look for evidence of intestinal inflammatory disease or neoplasia.